Graduate Program in the News

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Rodolfo Santana Wins the 2013 Fred T. Goetting, Jr. Memorial Endowed Presidential Fellowship

November 2012

rodolfo santana

Rodolfo Santana

Rodolfo Santana is this year's recipient of the Fred T. Goetting, Jr. Memorial Endowed Presidential Fellowship. This award recognizes a student for outstanding service to the Department of Astronomy, usually for excellence in teaching. Rodolfo Santana has been a TA for both Dan Jaffe and Pawan Kumar. He has a great combination of having a calm demeanor while being totally enthusiastic about the subject matter. He led weekly homework help sessions, once a month test reviews, and put together excellent quizzes and homeworks which were indispensable tools for the students. His evaluation comments indicate that the students really appreciated his teaching abilities and found that he was very good at explaining difficult concepts. Rodolfo is the graduate student rep this year, and has worked on a number of graduate student issues, such as travel funding and changes to the grad student curriculum. He also solicited student feedback regarding teaching assignments for signature and other courses to help the GSEC redraft a new TA policy which will go into effect this spring.

JJ Hermes wins the 2013 David Benfield Memorial Fellowship in Astronomy

November 2012

jj hermes

JJ Hermes

JJ Hermes has been awarded the 2013 David Benfield Memorial Fellowship in Astronomy, which recognizes outstanding research by a senior graduate. JJ has co-authored 14 refereed publications since 2010, with 8 papers and counting already in 2012. 6 of his refereed papers are as first author. His discoveries include three entirely new classes of objects and two new phenomena. Much of his recent work revolves around the Extremely Low Mass (ELM) white dwarf stars and the binary systems that contain them. This includes finding ellipsoidal variations, from tidally distorted white dwarf stars, on timescales shorter than an hour, and in several systems, measurements of relativistic beaming. more...

Tim Weinzirl Wins AAS Rodger Doxsey Travel Prize

November 2012

tim weinzirl

Tim Weinzirl

Tim Weinzirl has been awarded a Rodger Doxsey Travel Prize for the AAS's 221st meeting. Tim was one of only 10 selected from all dissertations submitted nationally for the conference. His dissertation presentation, "Structure, Activity, and Assembly History of Massive Galaxies Out to z~3 and Across Diverse Environments," will be highlighted in the meeting program book and in other meeting-related materials. Tim is the first graduate student at UT Austin to win the honor. For more on this award, please visit

Graduate Students Win Major Fellowships

July 2012

nasa nsf award winners

Taylor Chonis, Marshall Johnson
& Chalence Safranek-Shrader

Taylor Chonis

NSF Graduate Research Fellowship

Supervisor: Gary Hill

Development of a New Low Resolution Spectrograph for the Hobby-Eberly Telescope: Investigating the Nature of Lyman-Alpha Emitting Galaxies in the Hobby-Eberly Telescope Dark Energy Experiment Survey

Marshall Johnson

NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship

Supervisor: William Cochran

Investigating Exoplanetary Transits with Doppler Tomography-Rossiter McLaughlin Technique.

Chalence Safranek-Shrader

NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship

Supervisors: Milos Milosavljevic & Volker Bromm

Metal Enriched Star Formation in the First Galaxies and Observational Implications for JWST.

Guillermo Blanc Wins 2012 Outstanding Dissertation Award

guillermo blanc

Guillermo Blanc

July 2012

Guillermo Blanc has won the 2012 Outstanding Dissertation Award from University Co-op and the Graduate School. The award recognizes exceptional work by doctoral students at the highest levels of scholarship, research, and writing, and is given to three doctoral candidates campus wide. Guillermo received his PhD in 2011, and is now the Carnegie Fellow at the Carnegie Institutes of Washington. His dissertation is entitled "Studying Star Formation at Low and High Redshift with Integral Field Spectroscopy".

Students Attend 2012 SPIE: Astronomical Telescopes & Instrumentation

taylor chonis

Taylor Chonis

July 2012

Taylor Chonis attended the 2012 SPIE: Astronomical Telescopes & Instrumentation in Amsterdam, the premier conference for new and updated technologies for the observational astronomical sciences. Taylor presented two papers, the first on prototype VPH diffraction gratings for VIRUS, and the plan for testing more than 150 gratings for the instrument. The second paper was on LRS2-B, a new facility-class low resolution spectrograph for the Hobby-Eberly Telescope. Michael Gully-Santiago presented an invited talk "Near infrared metrology of high-performance silicon immersion gratings". Recent graduates Dr. Casey Dean and Dr. Jeremy Murphy also attended the international conference.

Manos Chatzopoulos Wins William Powers, Jr. Fellowship

manos chatzopoulos

Manos Chatzopoulos

July 2012

Manos Chatzopoulos has been awarded the prestigious William Powers, Jr. Graduate Dissertation Fellowship by The University of Texas at Austin Graduate School. One of the school's most competitive awards, students are chosen from across all university departments. Manos has published five papers in The Astrophysical Journal, four as lead author. He currently works on large-scale multidimensional numerical models of supernovae with Professor Craig Wheeler. Manos is a former recipient of the Board of Visitors Graduate Student Second Year Research Defense Award, the Frank N. Edmonds, Jr. Memorial Fellowship in Astronomy, the David Alan Benfield Memorial Fellowship in Astronomy, and the University-wide Co-op Award for Outstanding Masters Thesis.

Paul Robertson Wins Continuing Fellowship

paul robertson

Paul Robertson

July 2012

Paul Robertston is the winner of the Astronomy Continuing Fellowship for the 2012/2013 academic year. The selection is made by faculty vote. Paul recently led the effort on two new papers presenting exoplanet discoveries with Mike Endl's group. He is working to disentangle stellar intrinsic noise from Doppler signals of compact multi-planetary systems. A valued TA, Paul has also published as lead author on chemical abundances in cluster galaxies with Greg Shields. He continues study in this area comparing cluster and field spirals, and investigating metallicity anomolies. Last year, Paul won the Frank N. Edmonds, Jr. Memorial Fellowship in Astronomy.

Hyunbae Park wins 2012 Board of Visitors Graduate Student Second Year Research Defense Award

hyunbae park

Hyunbae Park

May 2012

Hyunbae Park won this year's 2nd year defense award for his project entitled "Kinetic Sunyaev-Zeldovich Effect on The Cosmic Microwave Background as a Probe of the Reionization Epoch". This award is given annually in recognition for an outstanding Second Year defense of research to date.

2012 Departmental Award Winners

July 2012

The McDonald Observatory and Department of Astronomy's graduate student awards are chosen by faculty vote.

mimi song, jj hermes, manos chatzopoulos

Mimi Song, JJ Hermes
& Manos Chatzopoulos

Mimi Song

The Frank Edmonds Memorial Fellowship

Given to a second or third year student showing strong promise in research, Mimi was chosen for her work with Dr. Karl Gebhardt using data from VENGA, to probe star formation in nearby galaxies, and her current project, using VLT IFU data to study star formation in high redshift galaxies.

JJ Hermes

Fred T. Goetting, Jr. Memorial Endowed Presidential Fellowship

The Goetting recognizes outstanding service to the Department of Astronomy.

Manos Chatzopoulos

The David Alan Benfield Memorial Scholarship in Astronomy

The Benfield recognizes outstanding research by a senior graduate student.